Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Biological Basis of the Need for Nicotine

Nicotine is neither a nutrient nor a naturally occurring substance in the body. However, nicotine mimics the effects of acetylcholine (ACh) throughout the body, and ACh is a naturally-occurring substance. Although brain disorders can be caused by injury or strokes, most of them are caused by imbalances in neurotransmitters.

And nicotine appears to provide a corrective action for some of these imbalances.

Nicotine is being studied for treating Attention Deficit Disorder, chronic pain disorders, depression, anxiety, and memory impairments. It also works to prevent some of the nastier side-effects of medications used to treat schizophrenia. Nicotine prevents the build-up of alpha synuclean protein deposits in the brain which has implications for the prevention of dementia and Parkinson's Disease.

Many of the diseases that we used to call “mental” or “behavioral” we now know have a basis in biochemistry. There is still a tendency, I think, for people to hold those who have a brain disorder responsible for healing themselves. The “crazy people” should be able to “control themselves” better, the reasoning goes.

How many kids with true hyperactivity disorders were beaten for their misbehavior? And look how long we blamed those with stomach ulcers for being “too uptight” and "refusing" to relax — when in reality the cause of their disorder was a bacterial infection!

So I’m asking you to open yourself to the possiblity that feeling ill in the absence of nicotine and experiencing symptom improvement in the presence of nicotine is not necessarily a moral failing. It just might have a biological basis. This would explain why some folks need nicotine and others do quite well without it.

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